Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Goodman, Kreider to Debate on October 4

David Goodman, the Republican incumbent in the 3rd senate district, and Democratic challenger Emily Kreider will meet for a debate at Otterbein College on Wednesday, October 4.

The debate will be held at the Riley Auditorium of the Battelle Fine Arts Center, 170 West Park Street, Westerville.

Details about the format are here.

I'll be interested to see what happens when these two wholesome-looking people square off. I've had some limited contact with Sen. Goodman, who strikes me as personally quite civil -- he wrote me a few days ago to supply his campaign web site and, concerning this blog, remarked, "I enjoyed your comments. It's hard to find a reasonable voice out there in the blog world." (Not the political blog world, that's for sure.) Similarly, Emily Kreider and I have exchanged a couple of emails about the meltdown her web site's PayPal function has every time I try to contribute money online.

Up until now, both candidates have gone with positive political ads. Goodman has emphasized his role in creating the Amber alert system and in cracking down on sexual predators, and Kreider's "I Am Emily Kreider" campaign is negative only in the sense of its insidious but unmistakable implication that Goodman cannot possibly be Emily Kreider.

That may be changing. This morning I received this email from Kreider's campaign:
Hi Team-

We're doing something right.

With 43 days to go until election day, David Goodman has started airing an attack ad against our campaign.

Instead of doing the hard work of listening to voters, Goodman believes he can buy this seat. The Ohio Republican Senate Campaign Committee has purchased 1.1 million dollars in T.V. time in central Ohio. There's only one competitive senate race in central Ohio so . . . it's safe to say that every dime of that T.V. time is devoted to attacking Emily Kreider.

All of this confirms that we're on the right track. Count on me to step up the pace and knock on more doors.

Volunteers have made all the difference. To date, we have knocked on over 7,000 doors and distributed 32,850 door hangers. That's why we're ahead in the polls. Thank you.
I'll be curious to see this attack ad, if that's what it actually is. And I'm sure I'll get my chance. These days the Columbus media market is saturated with campaign ads.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Issue 2: YES, For Crying Out Loud, Let's Pay a Halfway Decent Minimum Wage


The current minimum wage in Ohio is $5.15 per hour. Issue 2, backed by organizations like Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage, proposes an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would raise this to $6.85 per hour.

An amendment seems a cumbersome way to accomplish this. But the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly couldn't be bothered to do the job in a more elegant fashion. In fact, it raised Ohio’s appalling $4.25 minimum wage to a slightly less appalling $5.15 only this year -- and then largely in hopes of heading off this ballot initiative, not from any actual concern for the working poor.

And if I were to ask why the lack of concern, my guess is that I'd get a list of condescending reasons as long as my arm about why what appears to be a transparent shafting of the working poor is really a hard-headed, realistic, yea, noble effort to keep jobs in Ohio.

Unlike most people who maintain political blogs, I don't think of myself as a political junkie or pundit. I'm basically just a voter. This blog is a tool by which to become a more responsible voter. To call it anything more would be kidding myself and, well, pretty much the rest of you.

In that regard, the amount I don't know about politics and public policy literally fills volumes.

On the other hand, I do know something about basic fairness and human nature.

It is basic fairness to pay someone a living wage for a full-time job. I'm better educated than most Americans. I've had the good fortune to land a job I like, that has good benefits, and that pays, by my standards anyway, a decent salary. But despite my good education, I can't understand how the job I do makes me, as an American citizen, any better than someone less educated than I am who is stuck with a job that he may not like, with few if any benefits, yet who puts in a solid 40-hour work week. I don't see why such a person should do that and still live in poverty.

It is human nature to pay as little as possible for a given good or service. And if you're a businessman, that often includes labor.It is also human nature to rationalize one's choices, and I can tell that if I dived into the literature opposing a hike in the minimum wage, I would find no end of tough-minded eloquence explaining to clueless Ivory Tower me why my sense of basic fairness is really just soft-headed sentimentalism. And I could reply that as a conservative in the traditional sense of the term, I object to having human relationships so sweepingly mediated by money. And you could stare at me blankly.

But we don't need to do that. You can just explain to me what makes this fair:

I just ran a check of the hourly wage I received for the first job I ever held, adjusted for inflation. I was fifteen years old; the year was 1975; the job involved shelving books at the Westerville Public Library. The skill involved was an ability to grasp the Dewey Decimal System which, trust me, is within the abilities of your average ten-year old.

The pay was $2.00 an hour, which in 1975 was subminimum wage. (The statutary minimum wage was actually 2.10/hour, raised to $2.30/hour in 1976.)

Adjusted to 2005 dollars, the wage I received for my very first job was $7.49 an hour. Had I received the 1975 minimum wage, it would have been $7.87 an hour, and in 1976 that would have jumped to $8.61 an hour. Essentially, in economic terms it was better to be a pimply-faced, living-with-mom-and-dad teenager in Ohio in 1975 than it is to be an on-your-own adult Ohioan in 2006.

I only worked about 10 or 15 hours a week, but let's say I put in 40 hours a week at $2.00 an hour. Adjusted to 2005 dollars, that would have given me an annual income of $14,380.80 -- not great, but well over the federal poverty line for a single individual living in the continental U.S. ($9,800 per year), and actually enough to support one dependent ($13,200 per year).

In contrast, the State of Ohio thinks it's perfectly fine for an employee to work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and earn $10,712. That's above the federal poverty line for a single person, I grant you, but if you've got one dependent -- a kid, an elderly parent, a spouse who doesn't work -- you're almost $2,500 below the poverty line. A lot of adults fit that description. (And by the way, 74 percent of those receiving minimum wage in Ohio are adults.)

Raising the state minimum wage to $6.85 an hour will not exactly usher in the millenium. It comes to $14,248 -- not quite as good as I would have made had I quit high school in 1975 and gone to work full-time as a library page, but not the scandal we presently pretend is just.

What absolutely kills me are the reasons trotted forth for opposing Issue 2:

The National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and other groups under the banner of Ohioans to Protect Personal Privacy argue that the proposed amendment would impose onerous record-keeping requirements on businesses and endanger the privacy of millions of people in the state.

They say it could result in the release of a flood of payroll records containing individuals’ pay rates, home addresses and other sensitive information.

"Every person in this state ought to be concerned about their private records getting into the public domain," said Ty R. Pine, executive director of the business federation.

What crap. I've read the issue in all its clunky glory and those objections are horseshit. But if those objections reflect the only real problem, why don't these business organizations give the General Assembly a green light to draft and pass a good, rigorous state law? That would assuredly be better than trying to accomplish this objective by amending the Ohio constitution. In fact, the only thing worse than achieving this objection through constitutional amendment would be to continue to let poor Ohioans work as hard as the rest of us and still be poor.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

"I Am An Emily Kreider Supporter"

Although Ohio2006 Blog has already done this -- and gets far more traffic -- it occurred to me that I ought to pass along the schedule of upcoming fundraisers for Emily Kreider, Democratic challenger in the Ohio 3rd Senate District. At the moment, Kreider enjoys a slight lead over Republican David Goodman, despite Goodman's advantages of incumbency and a television ad campaign that is already up and running. As far as I know, Kreider's own ad is still confined to cyberspace (and in cyberspace, only those with broadband can hear you scream).

Asked for comment about Kreider's lead, Goodman claims to be undisturbed, and notes that historically he has always run come-from-behind campaigns. That may sound kind of anemic, but I suggest taking him at his word. So cough up some bucks and help get that "I Am Emily Kreider" ad on the airwaves. I've already written one check, and I have an itch to write just written another.

Your own check-writing opportunities this week:

Tuesday, September 26th, 6pm to 8pm
Old Bag of Nails in Westerville
24 N State St
Westerville 43081

Wednesday, September 27th, 6pm to 8pm
Old Bag of Nails in Bexley
18 N Nelson Rd
Bexley 43219

Thursday, September 28th, 6pm to 8pm
Old Bag of Nails in Gahanna
63 Mill St
Gahanna 43230

If you're going to one of these events, RSVP to Nicole at i_am_emily_kreider-at-yahoo-dot-com. Suggested contributions are $25 and up. Make contributions payable to Committee for Emily Kreider, 121 Triesta Place, Westerville, OH 43081. (You can also contribute online.)

Incidentally, Kreider and Goodman are scheduled to debate at Otterbein College on October 4.

Dispatch Poll: State Issues Still Up for Grabs

According to polling results published in this morning's Columbus Dispatch, the margin between voters planning to vote for or against each of the three state issues is close enough, and the number of undecided voters great enough, that essentially these issues are still up for grabs. The situation is all the more cloudy because two mutually contradictory state issues on smoking are both leading in the poll:

Issue 3. Expanded Gambling

No: 48 percent
Yes: 43 percent
Undecided: 9 percent

State Issue 4. Bans Smoking Except in Bars, Some Other Businesses; Wipes Out Local Smoking Bans

Yes: 55 percent
No: 38 percent
Undecided: 7 percent

State Issue 5. Bans Smoking Statewide in Most Public Places

Yes: 58 percent
No: 34 percent
Undecided: 8 percent

Dispatch Poll Indicates Huge Democrat Win in Ohio

Today's Columbus Dispatch gives the result of a poll suggesting that "a near-sweep of statewide races appears within the grasp of Ohio Democrats." The poll was based on returns from 1,791 registered voters who say they intended to vote in the November 7.

The poll is broken down extensively according political affiliation, voting record in recent elections, age, education, gender, race, religion, union membership, annual income and region. The Dispatch estimates a magin of error of +/- 2.2 percent in 95 out of 100 cases. "This means that if a poll is conducted 100 times, in 95 cases the result will not vary by more than 2.2 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if all registered voters in Ohio were polled and responded. Error margins are greater for poll subsamples."

Here are the basics:

Governor's Race

Kenneth Blackwell, Rep. - 33 percent
Ted Strickland, Dem. - 52 percent
Others - 1 percent
Undecided - 13 percent

U.S Senate Race

Sherrod Brown, Dem. - 47 percent
Mike DeWine, Rep. - 42 percent
Undecided - 11 percent

Attorney General

Marc Dann, Dem. - 39 percent
Betty Montgomery, Rep. - 47 percent
Undecided - 14 percent

Secretary of State

Jennifer Brunner, Dem. - 36 percent
Greg Hartmann, Rep. - 28 percent
Other Candidates - 4 percent
Undecided - 22 percent

Auditor

Barbara Sykes, Dem. - 44 percent
Mary Taylor, Rep. - 32 percent
Undecided - 24 percent

Treasurer

Richard Cordray, Dem. - 45 percent
Sandra O'Brien, Rep. - 34 percent
Undecided - 21 percent

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Latest Poll Shows DeWine, Brown In Dead Heat

As of September 20, a survey of likely voters conducted the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute and used by the New York Times as one of its election tracking polls has Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown in a statistical dead heat with Republican incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine. Brown, who has enjoyed an edge of several points in previous polls, still has a nominal advantage of 45-44 percent, but a difference of single percentage point is easily covered by the poll's margin of error.

Survey details follow:
Another 11 percent of voters are undecided.

Women back Rep. Brown 48 - 40 percent, while men back Sen. DeWine 49 - 41 percent. DeWine gets 43 percent of independent voters to Brown's 40 percent, a statistical tie. Among these independent voters, 17 percent are undecided, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

Relatively few voters say their choice stems from the candidates' opposing positions on the war in Iraq. More voters cite other issues as the reason why they support a candidate. About one in five voters base their preference on Sen. DeWine's support for, and Rep. Brown's criticism of, President George W. Bush.

Full press release

Joe Galloway: "We've Sunk to Osama's Level"


A patriotic interlude at an evening worship event co-sponsored by the Ohio Restoration Project, September 10, 2006.


I've cross-posted this from my "professional" blog, which deals with military history and national security affairs. Its author, LTC Robert Bateman, is a career Army officer who returned in March from a posting in Baghdad and is currently assigned to the Pentagon. It introduces a recent column by the distinguished -- and far from liberal -- military correspondent, Joe Galloway. Together with Gen. Hal Moore, Galloway co-authored the bestselling We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young, that was later made into the film, We Were Soldiers.

I met Galloway a few months before the 2004 presidential election. Although decidedly cool about John Kerry, he said he was going to grit his teeth and vote for Kerry anyway because of the abysmal way the Bush administration had conducted the occupation of Iraq. His detestation of the administration, particularly Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has only deepened over time. Galloway's September 20 column excoriates the Bush administration's recent attempt to rewrite our Geneva Convention obligations so as to permit the torture of detainees.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a sort of half-worship service, half-political rally organized by the Ohio Restoration Project and two other conservative evangelical organizations. I may write about that some other time, but for the present I just want to note that at one point the service involved a polished multimedia salute to the armed forces. I would be willing to bet real money that nobody in the ORP harbors any doubts about the moral rectitude of water-boarding prisoners or the way in which the Bush administration's explicit embrace of such measures harms the United States and endangers its service personnel. Let Colonel Bateman and Joe Galloway explain:

Joe Galloway's September 20 column, with which I heartily concur, and to which I would add that it's not just the moral side. . . torture is freaking stupid. We never get good intel from it, and indeed I myself was taught in several settings (because since Vietnam we've assumed that we would be tortured) that under torture the proper method of resistance was to make up lies. Make up simple ones, so you could be consistent and maintain them, and use things that you knew, but lie at will to end the torture of your body, because they will keep torturing you until you tell them something, and usually your persecutor is not educated enough about the niceties of your culture to understand what you've told him is a lie. McCain, a man who cannot lift his arms above his shoulders because of repeated and sustained torture at the hands of a nation which refused to acknowledge his status as a "lawful combatant" and therefore said that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to him, apparently once told the North Vietnamese, when pressed for the names of the men in his squadron, the entire starting lineup of the previous year's Green Bay Packers. (He was never caught in this lie either.)

I have heard (but cannot substantiate) that during Desert Storm one of our captured pilots told the Iraqis (who tortured him) that the man commanding his squadron was "Lieutenant Commander Homer Simpson." I believe this because the Iraqis were so ignorant of OUR culture that one of their attempts at pyschological operations to demoralize our troops before the war...was leaflets telling our troops that the "guy back home" was sleeping with his wife/girlfriend. Now, this plays upon a fear all deployed soldiers have, but the Iraqis completely achieved the OPPOSITE effect when they identified the "guy back home" as Bart Simpson. (No joke).

So, even if you USE torture, you get crap. Enough of my opinion though, here's Joe:

"The torture of prisoners is not only illegal under American and international law it is, put simply, immoral and unjust. It is also un-American.

"It is amazing that we are still hung up in a debate over President Bush's insistence that we bend and break our laws and the Geneva Conventions so that our agents can do everything short of murder to make a man talk.

"The president's bill -- blocked in the Senate by three Republicans who know war and know the law and know what's right -- would allow Central Intelligence Agency operatives to subject prisoners to water-boarding, or near-death by drowning; to being forced to stand for 40 hours at a time; to sleep deprivation; to being tossed naked into a freezing cold cell for days at a time."

Full article

Note: Both LTC Bateman and Galloway wrote prior to the accord reached late on the 21st between President Bush and the senators. To my mind, the new development doesn't blunt the thrust of their views. In fact, the more I've read of it, the less clear it is to me that the senators came away with any concession of consequence.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

GodHatesShrimp.Com

The two most reliable wedge issues of the Republican Party are abortion and gay rights. Abortion is a highly charged moral question on which reasonable people may disagree. Opposition to equal civil rights for gays, on the other hand, plays into sheer prejudice. One cannot craft, on non-religious grounds, any case at all for this proscription; and among Christians the case against gay civil rights depends chiefly on six so-called "clobber verses," most of which are found in the codes of Leviticus and Deuteronomy which are, on most other matters, viewed as part of an Old Covenant superceded by the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the creation of the New Covenant. I'm a specialist in nineteenth century U.S. history and believe me, Southern theologians could and did make a better scriptural case for chattel slavery.

Which brings us to the question of moral consistency. My personal view is that gossip is the most destructive Biblical sin overlooked by Christians, some of whom positively thrive upon it. Others think the wanton consumption of shellfish is most urgently in need of rebuke.

"Shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, mussels, all these are an abomination before the Lord, just as gays are an abomination. Why stop at protesting gay marriage? Bring all of God's law unto the heathens and the sodomites. We call upon all Christians to join the crusade against Long John Silver's and Red Lobster. Yea, even Popeye's shall be cleansed. The name of Bubba shall be anathema. We must stop the unbelievers from destroying the sanctity of our restaurants."


Visit the web site.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Needed: A Democratic Plan for Iraq

Most Americans now regret, with reason, the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003. It turns out that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, no significant connection with Al-Qaeda, and no involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Was Saddam Hussein a vicious dictator? Assuredly. Are Iraqis better off now that he is gone? With 3,000 civilian casualties a month to insurgent actions, that's debatable. Is the United States safer as a result of the invasion? No.

But we can't turn back the clock. And if most Americans regret the invasion, they recognize that we can't just withdraw and leave behind a mess. Here the Democrats face a challenge. The electorate is unhappy with the Republican administration and the Republican-dominated Congress that put us in our present position, but they won't vote for Democrats simply because the Democrats oppose Bush. The Democrats have to put forward a compelling U.S. policy alternative for Iraq -- and to get us back on track regarding the war on terror.

One of the better plans I've seen comes from Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, unveiled in a September 10 speech at the National Press Club:
[W]hat should we do - what would I do - to make America safer in five years?

I would start with Iraq, for no strategy to make America safer can succeed unless we first solve Iraq. Iraq has already cost us dearly in lives lost and money spent. Because our forces are tied down, our ability to act against our enemies is limited -- and they know it. Because we hyped the intelligence before going in, our ability to convince allies -- and the American people --- of new dangers has been diminished. Because we diverted our energy and resources from Afghanistan, it is on the verge of failure.

This administration has no strategy for success in Iraq. It has a strategy to prevent defeat and pass the problem along to the next President. The overwhelming reality in Iraq is a sectarian cycle of revenge. Throwing more troops at Baghdad won't fix this mess. We need a political settlement that allows each group to pursue its interests peacefully.

I've offered just such a plan, not unlike what we did in Bosnia. It would keep Iraq together by providing each group breathing room in their own regions, getting Sunni buy-in by giving them a piece of the oil revenues, creating a major jobs and reconstruction program to deny the militia new recruits, and bringing in Iraq's neighbors to support the political process. If we do all that, we have a chance to bring most of our troops home by the end of 2007, without leaving chaos behind.

Getting Iraq right won't guarantee success on those other fronts we're fighting. But it will give us much more freedom, flexibility, and credibility to make the profound changes to our national security strategy these complex threats demand.

And it will make it easier to put our focus back on other profoundly important developments that will shape this century, like the developing roles of China, India, and Russia as major powers; the shortage of reliable sources of energy; and the growing impact of climate change.

Today, I am announcing a four-part plan to move America toward greater security. It flows from my conviction that protecting our homeland requires a dramatic reordering of our priorities; that real security comes from prevention, not preemption; that working with strong partners is better than alienating them; and that advancing democracy is about more than elections.

And my plan starts from the premise it is time for America to recapture the totality of our strength -- our military, economic, and diplomatic might -- and the power of our ideas and ideals. That is what won the Cold War. That is what has gotten lost these past five years.
Complete speech

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Government by Hot Button

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11: Valor and Shame

This afternoon I watched a DVD of United 93, a very good film released earlier this year about the one aircraft hijacked by Al-Qaeda on 9/11 that failed to reach its target (most likely the U.S. Capitol). The plane went down in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

According to the best testimony we have, the aircraft went down after what the 9/11 Commission report terms a "passenger revolt" broke out at 9:57 a.m.:

During at least five of the passengers' phone calls, information was shared about the attacks that had occurred earlier that morning at the World Trade Center. Five calls described the intent of passengers and surviving crew members to revolt against the hijackers. According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane. They decided, and acted.

At 9:57, the passenger assault began. Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order to join the revolt. One of the callers ended her message as follows: "Everyone's running up to first class. I've got to go. Bye."

The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door. Some family members who listened to the recording report that they can hear the voice of a loved one among the din. We cannot identify whose voices can be heard. But the assault was sustained.

In response, Jarrah immediately began to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the passengers off balance. At 9:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door. Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply left and right, but the assault continued. At 9:59:52, Jarrah changed tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the assault. The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates. At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilized the airplane.

Five seconds later, Jarrah asked, "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?" A hijacker responded, "No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off." The sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up and down. At 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said, "In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!" Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled, "Roll it!" Jarrah stopped the violent maneuvers at about 10:01:00 and said, "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!" He then asked another hijacker in the cock-pit, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" to which the other replied, "Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."

The passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:23, a hijacker said, "Pull it down! Pull it down!" The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them. The airplane headed down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting "Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest." With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, D.C.

Jarrah's objective was to crash his airliner into symbols of the American Republic, the Capitol or the White House. He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93.

How much would I rather have had a story like United 93 aired on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks rather than a mini-series devised by partisan film-makers and promoted in a partisan fashion, yet sold to the public as a faithful account of the years preceding 9/11. It demonstrably is not. From Media Matters:

The first part of the ABC miniseries The Path to 9-11, which aired on September 10, included a fabricated scene that depicts Clinton administration officials declining to authorize the CIA to capture Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. ABC retained the controversial scene despite the fact that it is contradicted by the 9-11 Commission report -- which ABC originally cited as the film's basis (although following criticism of the film's numerous inconsistencies with the report, network officials have since minimized that claim) -- and has even been disputed in recent days by conservative media figures such as Richard Miniter.

Full story

Eric Alterman has it right:

Who would have imagined in their worst nightmares that these political usurpers would employ the human catastrophe of 9/11 to continue the terrorists work for them? Who would have imagined that they would embark on a course that would eventually kill more Americans than died on 9/11 in wars that do nothing to ensure the nation’s security but much to inspire more Arabs to hate us and wish to attack us? Who would have imagined they would dissipate the global solidarity and support the world had offered us? Who would have imagined that, having ignored all of the signs of a certain attack, they would continue to ignore the most obvious steps to protect us against future catastrophe, leaving our ports, our nuclear facilities, our chemical facilities invitingly unguarded? Who would have imagined that they would willingly allow bin-Laden to escape? Who would have imagined they would lie to the rescue workers about the health effects of the air they were breathing. Who would have imagined that they would put the fate of the nation in the hands of a group of lying, conniving, rats like “curveball,” Ahmad Chalabi and the INC? Who would have imagined a political campaign in which a man like Max Cleland, a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, would be branded as insufficiently patriotic by right-wing politicians and pundits who never sacrificed so much as a chicken dinner for their country? Who would have imagined they would use homeland security as pure pork money, doling out millions for Red State fire houses while leaving tens of millions who live near obvious targets -- and were attacked last time -- unprotected? Who would have imagined they would emulate our enemies, employing methods of torture and massacre?

Full post

Anti-Incumbent Spirit Runs High

NEW CASTLE, Ky. (AP) - Dissatisfied with Congress, voters would probably hang a "Help Wanted" sign on the U.S. Capitol if given the chance.

"They're not doing their job," says Scott Newland, 39, an independent voter who backed President Bush in 2004.

The factory worker had harsh words for congressional Republicans and Democrats as he helped close his sister's New Castle deli one recent evening. "You need people that care. They don't care."

Such angry sentiments echo up and down the Ohio River Valley as it cuts through Republican-held congressional districts in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio - politically pivotal House seats in an election year in which Democrats hope to end 12 years in the minority.

At lunch counters, post offices, city parks and downtown streets, voters in this region and nationally are quick to voice their frustration with the GOP-controlled Congress, and their desire for more responsive replacements for the current crop of lawmakers.

It's a general disgust that may lead to firings of some politicians on Nov. 7. People already have hinted as much in Republican and Democratic primaries.

Kenny Brown, an independent, knows precisely what he's looking for in a congressman. "Somebody who cares for the working man," the supermarket employee, 66, says before picking up his mail at the PeeWee Valley, Ky., post office.

Judging by the past few years, Brown said, Bush and Republicans don't care. "Maybe the Democrats do, or maybe they don't."

-----

With congressional elections less two months away, the public is consistently giving the GOP-run Congress dismal marks. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll in August found that only 29 percent of the public approve of the job Congress is doing.

A CNN poll earlier this month found that 55 percent of Americans are more likely to vote for the challenger in any election this fall. And an ABC News/Washington Post poll in August found that 53 percent of Americans call themselves "anti-incumbent," a figure as high as it was in the summer 1994 shortly before Republicans seized control from Democrats.

Full article

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"I Am Emily Kreider"

From the Columbus Dispatch, September 9:
In her uphill fight against Republican Sen. David Goodman to represent the 3 rd District, covering much of northern and eastern Franklin County, Kreider’s campaign strategy has moved outside the box.

Her campaign created a television spot in which she does not appear and does not speak. However, an assortment of people repeat: "I am Emily Kreider." A voice-over says Kreider is "that part of you that’s not satisfied with the way things are."
The ad in question launches when one visits Emily Kreider's web site.

Confronting the Religious Right in Ohio: The Complete IRS Complaint

Cross-posted from Radical Civility.

Re the now famous letter of complaint to the Internal Revenue Service concerning Reformation Ohio, the Ohio Restoration Project, and their parent organizations, World Harvest Church and Fairfield Christian Church, respectively, I've been able to make a copy of the letter with all nineteen appendices included. Print it off and read it; it's fascinating to get a more complete picture of what the fuss is about.

Uncovering the Ambush Laid on "The Path to 9/11"


(Image thanks to xenophile)

A number of bloggers have been doing an excellent job of uncovering the nakedly partisan agenda of "The Path to 9/11," but Oricinus does it as well as I've seen it. Here are the relevant posts:

A Bush, Bush World - September 7. Excerpt:

Now that ABC has become a full-fledged propaganda organ for right-wing ideologues, I think it's fair to assume we'll be seeing similar changes throughout its parent company, Walt Disney.

Imagine, if you will, some of the new rides at Disneyland:

-- The Clintonhorn (as your rollercoaster descends the slightly crooked penis-shaped mountain, scary Bill Clintons with glowing red eyes jump out at you).

-- Space Media Mountain (another rollercoaster, this time with a dizzying array of meaningless media feeding frenzies -- O.J. Simpson, Natalee Holloway, JonBenet Ramsey, Brad and Angelina, Tom and Katie, J-Lo and Ben -- come whirling past in a mind-blowing rush).

The Other "Path to 9/11" Lie - September 8. Excerpt:

While most of the attention regarding ABC's The Path to 9/11 "docudrama" has focused on the bogus scene in which Clinton officials are depicted as letting Osama bin Laden go despite having him in their clutches -- a truly mendacious bit of right-wing propaganda -- there's another scene, apparently in the film, that deserves every bit as much attention and careful scrutiny.

That's the sequence described in the Salon review of the program:
Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice gets that fated memo about planes flying into buildings, and makes it very clear to anyone who'll listen just how concerned President Bush is about these terrorist threats -- despite the fact that we're given little concrete evidence of the president's concern or interest in taking action.

"That fated memo" in question is, of course, the August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing memo that became the subject of extensive wrangling between the 9/11 Commission and the White House, which was intent on keeping it from being made public.

The purported scene in Path to 9/11 (which may turn out to be among the sequences the network is currently scrambling to correct) is in fact contradicted directly by Rice's own testimony . . .
Covering Their Tracks - September 8. Excerpt:
Digby pointed out the other day the fundamentalist organizations who appear to be behind the bogus ABC "docudrama" The Path to 9/11 -- most notably, the cultlike Youth With A Mission, whose founder, Loren Cunningham, is the father of the film's director.

Since then, a number of others, notably EarlG at Democratic Underground and SheWhoMustBeObeyed at DU, have done even more digging on this aspect of the film's origins. Mark in NC at DKos rounds it up:
The film was tentatively titled "Untitled History Project" and from this came the name of the Production Company, UHP Productions. (you can confirm this via IMDB..)

Obviously even the tentative name given to this film during it's 2+ years of production illustrates that this film was intended to re-write the history of 9/11.

... One of the goals of this Film Institute is to "help filmmakers, actors, technicians, etc. realize their God given potential and purpose in perhaps the most influential sphere of modern culture - film and television."

In a brochure for The Film Institute found on a YWAM members live journal, the organization describes itself as "An Auxiliary organization of University of the Nations, a non-profit entity designed to facilitate and launch University of Nations students into the film and television industry. The Film Institute provides internships, apprenticeships, scholarships, and the production of culturally relevant films that will cause awareness and resources for current issues."

Rick Ross reported awhile back that the Cunninghams had become involved with Christian Reconstructionism, the fundamentalist movement to install a theocratic state in America . . .

[The post goes on to note that a number of smoking gun web pages have been removed by these groups, only to be salvaged from the pitiless memory of the Google cache.]
Definitely worth a read.

(Thanks to Jonathan Dresner for the tip)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Democratic Senators Weigh In on "The Path to 9/11"

Tell ABC to tell the truth about 9/11 - A project of ThinkProgress.org

Letter to ABC from several Democratic Senators


September 7, 2006

Mr. Robert A. Iger
President and CEO
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank CA 91521

Dear Mr. Iger,

We write with serious concerns about the planned upcoming broadcast of The Path to 9/11 mini-series on September 10 and 11. Countless reports from experts on 9/11 who have viewed the program indicate numerous and serious inaccuracies that will undoubtedly serve to misinform the American people about the tragic events surrounding the terrible attacks of that day. Furthermore, the manner in which this program has been developed, funded, and advertised suggests a partisan bent unbecoming of a major company like Disney and a major and well respected news organization like ABC. We therefore urge you to cancel this broadcast to cease Disney's plans to use it as a teaching tool in schools across America through Scholastic. Presenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law, to your shareholders, and to the nation.

The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.

Disney and ABC claim this program to be based on the 9/11 Commission Report and are using that assertion as part of the promotional campaign for it. The 9/11 Commission is the most respected American authority on the 9/11 attacks, and association with it carries a special responsibility. Indeed, the very events themselves on 9/11, so tragic as they were, demand extreme care by any who attempt to use those events as part of an entertainment or educational program. To quote Steve McPhereson, president of ABC Entertainment, "When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right."

Unfortunately, it appears Disney and ABC got it totally wrong.

Despite claims by your network¹s representatives that The Path to 9/11 is based on the report of the 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Commissioners themselves, as well as other experts on the issues, disagree.

* Richard Ben-Veniste, speaking for himself and fellow 9/11 Commissioners who recently viewed the program, said, "As we were watching, we were trying to think how they could have misinterpreted the 9/11 Commission's findings the way that they had." ["9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased," New York Times, September 6, 2006]

* Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism czar, and a national security advisor to ABC has described the program as "deeply flawed" and said of the program's depiction of a Clinton official hanging up on an intelligence agent, "It's 180 degrees from what happened." ["9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased," New York Times, September 6, 2006]

* Reports suggest that an FBI agent who worked on 9/11 and served as a consultant to ABC on this program quit halfway through because, "he thought they were making things up." [MSNBC, September 7, 2006]

* Even Thomas Kean, who serves as a paid consultant to the miniseries, has admitted that scenes in the film are fictionalized. ["9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased," New York Times, September 6, 2006]

That Disney would seek to broadcast an admittedly and proven false recounting of the events of 9/11 raises serious questions about the motivations of its creators and those who approved the deeply flawed program. Finally, that Disney plans to air commercial-free a program that reportedly cost it $40 million to produce serves to add fuel to these concerns.

These concerns are made all the more pressing by the political leaning of and the public statements made by the writer/producer of this miniseries, Mr. Cyrus Nowrasteh, in promoting this miniseries across conservative blogs and talk shows.

Frankly, that ABC and Disney would consider airing a program that could be construed as right-wing political propaganda on such a grave and important event involving the security of our nation is a discredit both to the Disney brand and to the legacy of honesty built at ABC by honorable individuals from David Brinkley to Peter Jennings. Furthermore, that Disney would seek to use Scholastic to promote this misguided programming to American children as a substitute for factual information is a disgrace.

As 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick said, "It is critically important to the safety of our nation that our citizens, and particularly our school children, understand what actually happened and why ­ so that we can proceed from a common understanding of what went wrong and act with unity to make our country safer."

Should Disney allow this programming to proceed as planned, the factual record, millions of viewers, countless schoolchildren, and the reputation of Disney as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress will be deeply damaged. We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Sincerely,

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid
Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Byron Dorgan

NB: Educational media giant Scholastic, Inc. announced it's dropping its original classroom companion guides to a controversial new docudrama about the events preceding the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks -- and replacing them with materials stressing critical thinking and media literacy.

"After a thorough review of the original guide that we offered online to about 25,000 high school teachers, we determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues," said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic, in a press release.

The original materials had been criticized for oversimplifications and failures to address flaws in post-9/11 policies, including the invasion of Iraq.

Full story

Text of Scholastic, Inc., Press Release

Thursday, September 07, 2006

OK, I'm Convinced: "The Path to 9/11" IS Blatant Right-Wing Propaganda

Cross-posted from my Daily Kos diary:

Aggh! A few days ago I saw some items in Daily Kos warning that "The Path to 9/11" was pre-election propaganda for the Right. But poking around the Internet, I saw other stories that suggested the film was mostly just dramatic and absorbing and neither liberal nor conservative in orientation. Michael Medved has convinced me of the error of my ways.

This evening I happened to be listening to a Christian Right AM radio station [WRFD, AM 880]. In ten minutes' time I heard Medved deliver two plugs for "The Road to 9/11." The second time I caught most of it on my digital recorder. Here's the transcript:

... The truth is that terrorist strikes against America began long before 2001, and a superb upcoming mini-series on ABC-TV, "The Path to 9/11," makes that point unforgettably clear. The five-hour dramatization begins with the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, highlighting eight years of confusion and passivity in the Clinton administration, while Bin Laden and colleagues intensified their anti-American jihad. As early as 1983 Hezbollah had killed 241 Americans in Beirut, and even four years before that, the embassy hostage crisis in Iran highlighted the new threat from Islamic extremism. Terrorism was hardly a response to the war in Iraq but that war was part of our response to a long series of atrocities reaching back more than twenty-five years. I'm Michael Medved.

That really tore it with me.

Next up was Hugh Hewitt interviewing the film's producer and one of its principal actors. Overtly, Hewitt made it sound like the film was just plain great drama, and the producer made it sound as if it was faithfully based on the 9/11 Commission Report. But taking the picture as it has now emerged -- the selective pre-screenings, Richard Clarke's assertion that at least one key scene is 180 degrees around from what actually occurred, and the smoking gun of the Medved plug, I've not only written ABC to protest, I'm not going to watch ABC again if they air this crap.

From one of many comments in response:

Howie Kurtz has written a pretty damning article about the film's brouhaha for tomorrow's edition (especially considering that it's coming from Howie!). This is becoming a big PR disaster for ABC/Disney. One juicy bit:

Top officials of the Clinton administration have launched a preemptive strike against an ABC-TV "docudrama," slated to air Sunday and Monday, that they say includes made-up scenes depicting them as undermining attempts to kill Osama bin Laden.

Former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright called one scene involving her "false and defamatory." Former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger said the film "flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions." And former White House aide Bruce R. Lindsey, who now heads the William J. Clinton Foundation, said: "It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known."

Word is, the other networks are starting to jump ABC as well. Any publicity is good publicity? Not always, and I hope ABC gets it with both barrels.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pornography: A Wedge Issue Helpful to Democrats?

The GOP has got abortion, gay marriage, and flag-burning (like it actually happens), among others, as wedge issues by which to attract support from voters whose interests do not otherwise coincide with the Republican agenda. The Democrats need a wedge issue of their own, argues Eric Sapp at Faithful Democrat, and he has one: Internet porn. There's actually a bill to go after Internet porn stalled in Congress, but . . .
Anyone figured out why this is a winner for us yet? You've got it, the Republican leadership has been holding up this legislation because they don't like the tax on business! It's hard to imagine a stance more counter to family values and anathema to religious voters than not protecting our children from internet porn because we don't want to tax the on-line porn industry. But that's the position the Rs have taken so far. The White House has also sided with the telecommunication companies and turned a deaf ear to evangelical Christian leaders who have pleaded with them to regulate streaming video on cell phones to prevent our phones from being spammed with streaming pornography. We all know what Jesus said about where one's treasure is, and since the R political machine is run on big-business and lobbyist money, it's no surprise that's where their heart is.

That is what makes this a perfect wedge issue. Even the most partisan evangelical has a deep-down fear that the Republicans really care more about helping corporations and the very rich than they do about the defending God and family. This forces religious partisans to face their biggest fears, and it clearly defines the Republican leadership as the hypocrites that they are. An added political benefit is that this is also an issue that appeals to women's groups since pornography generally promotes unhealthy gender roles, relationships, and body images.
Personally I've long thought that conservative Christians get a lot less from the Republicans than their tireless grass roots organization and campaigning for the GOP deserves. Republicans pay lip service to the Christian Right's agenda and then in practice pursue an economic agenda that actually hurts the individuals who comprise the Right, because with few exceptions these are people of modest means -- like me, come to think of it. So there's something to Eric Sapp's idea that conservative evangelicals aren't in utter thrall to the GOP. The problem, I suspect, is that too many Democrats at the top of the organizational food chain have written off conservative evangelicals, much as Republicans did the African American community until recent years.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What's Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?


The speaker is Dr. John Corvino, a PhD in philosophy who challenges people on all sides of the debate to rethink assumptions about both homosexuality and morality. Corvino has been speaking and writing on GLBT issues for over a decade. His audiences include professional organizations, the NIH, the Lawrence Livermore National Research Laboratory (a division of the Department of Defense), and dozens of colleges and universities, including Cornell University, the University of Michigan, Southern Methodist University, and the Blumenfeld Center for Ethics at Georgia State University.

2006 --> 1796

Poking around the blogosphere I stumbled upon BobGeiger.com, a Flappy Bird in the TTLB whose blog is graphics intensive and really a lot of fun to look at. I particularly liked his Yellow Dog Democrat logo, which I have appropriated for my sidebar just because I like dogs and it's so damn cute. If you click the dog, it'll take you to CafePress.com, where Geiger is selling a line of T-shirts, coffee cups, bumper stickers, etc., all based upon this theme:
Our goal is to provide you with merchandise that you can use to send a message to Republicans, conservatives and the Religious Right:

No prisoners...
No compromise...

No more reaching across the damn aisle!
There are plenty of Republicans who feel the same way, especially the Christian Right, which regards itself as engaged in an all-out war against powers and principalities that are dragging our uniquely blessed nation straight to H - E - double toothpicks.

In other words, you've got a political environment where neither side regards the other in terms of a legitimate, loyal opposition. I don't think we're there yet, but we're moving in the direction of the 1790s, when the concept of a loyal opposition did not yet exist.

The original founders believed that if citizens would exercise civic virtue and look beyond their narrow self-interest, they would apply republican principles, discern what was best for the commonweal, and vote and act accordingly. The Constitution was barely ratified, however, than it became obvious that citizens did not share a consensus view. Two groups emerged, the Federalists, headed by Alexander Hamilton, and the Democrat-Republicans, headed by Thomas Jefferson. (Democrat-Republican is a little confusing, given our modern party names, so when I teach the US history survey I just call them "Jeffersonians.")

The Federalists believed that they correctly applied republican principles and knew what was best for the country. That the Jeffersonians did not concur struck them as morally, willfully wrong: the Jeffersonians were behaving as a faction. The Jeffersonians felt exactly the same about the Federalists. The Jeffersonians, for instance, were philosophical about the excesses of the French Revolution and continued to admire the revolutionaries' slogan, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. TheFederalists considered the radical phase of the French Revolution (essentially 1792 onward) as clear evidence that liberty was leading to license -- the cardinal sin in a republic. That the Jeffersonians failed to see this could only mean that they, too, were prone to license. The Jeffersonians, in turn, regarded the Federalist reservations as clear evidence that the Federalists were a pack of closet monarchists.

George Washington was able to keep a lid on things during his two terms as president, but in 1796 the conflict broke out into the open. It got so bad that the Federalists seriously thought the Jeffersonians might welcome a French invasion and the Jeffersonians believed the Federalists were creating a New Army officered exclusively by Federalists and whose purpose was probably less to defend the country than to squelch internal dissent. It was a horribly divisive time in American history, and it damn near derailed the republican experiment in its infancy.

The republic survived, of course, and it's now the oldest and most successful republic in the world. Americans take that too much for granted. They think they can coarsen the political process as much as they want and it won't really do any harm. They think they can treat politics as war, demonize the opposition, "take no prisoners," and somehow it won't all end in a train wreck.

Well, they're wrong. Plenty of other republics have gone down the tubes -- it is, in fact, the most common fate of republics -- and there's nothing that exempts our own. We came close to blowing up our republic in the 1790s and even closer in the 1860s. And we may yet succeed in failing.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

State of Ohio Budget Highlights, FY 2006-2007

After posting my last entry, I got to thinking about the broad issue of taxes. The idea of being taxed at all is nowadays something like anathema. Kevin Bacon wants to cut taxes on the apparent theory that the less people are taxed, the better off they are, quite as if the revenues collected just went into a black hole somewhere. It's not just Republicans who talk this way. I just saw an ad touting how much Sherrod Brown has cut taxes during the course of his political career to date.

The fact is, of course, that without taxes you can't pay for the services that good government is supposed to provide. It seems to me that you can debate the priority that these services should have, or whether some services are necessary, or whether funds are administered efficiently. But just to tell people you'll cut their taxes. . . . Well, it seems absurd for citizens to uncritically embrace that as an unalloyed good, and slightly cynical for office holders and office aspirants to promise it without laying out the trade-offs.

Of course, that would require addressing matters in their full complexity, and it's an unhappy fact of life that not one voter in a hundred, maybe a thousand, would sit still for that. We live in a society that reflects in many ways exactly what the Founders feared might happen: a republic filled with citizens who lack the civic virtue required in a healthy republic, a republic where liberty has led to license and the door opened to all sorts of evils, especially, at the moment, plutocracy.

I say this as if I'm a better citizen, but ninety percent of the time I'm not. I'd just like to improve that percentage some. Anyway, clicking the title of this post will get you on your way to a quick education in the state's budget -- what comes in and where it goes.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon, you stopped by the house today. (Before onlookers gasp in awe, let me hasten to add that it wasn't Kevin Bacon the actor but rather Kevin Bacon the Blendon Township trustee. Bacon the trustee is the Republican candidate for state representative in the 21st District -- Linda Reidelbach, the incumbent, isn't standing for reelection.)

I wasn't yet back from a business trip to Washington, DC, so you knocked in vain. You did leave that attractive 4-color flyer, though, with your smiling face, adoring wife and kids, and the scribbled note, "Sorry I missed you! - Kevin."

Me too, Kevin. A few days ago I got a photocopied letter from Congressman Pat Tiberi saying what a cool guy you were and that you'd soon be visiting the neighborhood. Being in the mood for campaign politics these days, I thought it'd be interesting to meet you, however briefly. Well, at least I got the URL of your campaign web site. Not that I'd consider voting for you, judging by your standard Republican program of cutting taxes, ostensibly for the benefit of working families, who instead are far more likely to have needed government services abridged; and reducing one's ability to sue the big dogs when one is wronged, ostensibly to benefit the little dogs but of course really to make screwing the little dogs an affordable cost of doing business. It's amazing so many people buy that crap, but they do, so you might just go the distance.

Still, it occurred to me that one has to respect you, or anyone, who goes to the trouble of standing for office. My impression is that a few people, like Bill Clinton, revel in every aspect of it, but most, like Richard Nixon, find it a fairly unpleasant chore, the price one pays for getting a shot at power. Anyway, I got to thinking about a college course I once took on campaign politics. It was one of the more interesting courses I took, and I learned a lot about the process you've undertaken (and learned even more by working for a couple of campaigns). But that was half a lifetime ago and I figure that the game has to be a little different than it once was. So, just by way of providing a link for my own self-education, here's a how-to guide as prepared by the Kossacks of Daily Kos. There's probably a GOP equivalent somewhere, but I imagine the fundamentals are the same.

By the way, feel free to drop by again sometime.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some of His Best Friends Are Sodomites

Cross-posted from my Daily Kos diary for August 31:

The alliance between the Christian Right and GOP has no better exemplar these days than the support of two Ohio megachurches for gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell seems headed for defeat, but that's his fault -- arrogant, unethical opportunist that he is -- and not that of the megachurches' two de facto PACS, Rod Parsley's Reformation Ohio and the Ohio Restoration Project, chaired by Russell Johnson, senior pastor of Fairfield Christian Church.
Of the two, Parsley is better known, but Johnson, in my view and that of others who've encountered him, is the more impressive operator. Whatever his faults, he comes across as a true believer and not an Elmer Gantry type.

Last evening I learned that Johnson has agreed to be our sixth discussant at an upcoming Forum on Church and State in Ohio's Electoral Politics. I was pleased to hear it, having met Johnson last March after a "town hall meeting" with Jim Wallis. Here's my account of that episode. I hope it humanizes the conflict between progressive Christians like myself and conservatives like Pastor Johnson.

Full post